Alex Svenson: Hamlet, tell us how you got started in the cigar industry?
Hamlet Paredes: I was introduced to the Partagas Cigar factory by one of the great Cuban rollers Rodolfo Leyva. I started out carrying boxes until I realized being a roller is the best job in the factory.
AS: Before coming to the U.S., where did you work in Cuba?
HP: I worked at Briones Montoto, the old Romeo y Julieta factory, and most recently a cigar store called Partagas La Casa Del Habanos where I was selling cigars and meeting new clients. I eventually was sent by Habanos, SA, the government owned Cuban cigar company, to travel the world and conduct rolling demonstrations at a number of stores.
AS: How did your partnership with Rocky Patel get started?
HP: It started because of my very good friends Robert Fox and Robert Ayala. I met them in Havana, Cuba and they contacted Rocky. Once my family and I were safely in Canada, Rocky got us a place to live in Naples, FL. I went to work soon after in Rocky’s cigar bar, Burn.
AS: What has been your biggest challenge along the way?
HP: The biggest challenge was that my whole life had to restart. I am very goal-oriented and have so many I need to accomplish and now that I am here, I am free to achieve them.
AS: What is your opinion of Cuban cigars?
HP: Cuban cigars are a big part of my life. They have crafted my life and brought me here today.
Cuban cigars are what made me who I am today. They are very important to who I am and are responsible for bringing me to this point in my life.
AS: Tell us about the blending process of your inaugural cigar?
HP: I wanted to make a cigar that I would love and smoke every day — hoping that everybody else will enjoy it as well. This was the first time I got the opportunity to work with non-Cuban tobacco and I was very excited by all the possibilities. I wanted to capture the essence of a true Cuban cigar without using the tobacco I was so familiar with.
AS: What are some of your favorite tobaccos to work with?
HP: Cuban, of course since it is what I was raised on and all I was accustomed to using. I have been falling in love with the richness and depth of Nicaraguan, Mexican, and Brazilian tobaccos since coming to the United States.
AS: What are your aspirations in the cigar industry?
HP: I love the idea of what a cigar stands for. It is a special moment in time. Being able to work with a product that is so unique is wonderful. It brings everybody together and forges a common bond, no matter what you do. I want to produce cigars that cross boundaries, that a farmer and CEO can smoke, enjoy, and bond over.
AS: Is there anything you would like to say to our Cigar.com readers before you go?
HP: Thank you guys for taking the time to learn a little more about me and be a part of my dream.